The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits last week rose less than expected, the Labor Department said Thursday, partly reflecting the volatility of applications during the annual auto-plant retooling period.
In the week ending July 28, applications for unemployment insurance payments rose by 8,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 357,000, to 365,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would climb to 370,000 last week.
The four-week moving average, which normally provides a better indication of the underlying trend in labor markets than the weekly number of jobless claims, fell 2,750 to 365,500 for first-time benefit applicants. That's the lowest level in four months.
While the volatility of jobless claims during the summer months limit the usefulness of any one report, it is encouraging that the four-week moving average now stands only 3,000 above where it did on the week ending March 31, which was the lowest level since 2008.
"This downward trend would be consistent with our views of a pickup in the labor market recovery in coming months," Barclays analyst Cooper Howes wrote in a note to clients.
The number of people filing for benefits after an initial week of aid dropped 19,000 to 3.27 million in the week ending July 21. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs. The four-week moving average for the week ended July 21 fell by 11,500 to 3.30 million.
Friday's employment report is expected to show employers added 100,000 employees to their payrolls in July, according to a Reuters survey, after a 80,000 gain in June. The unemployment rate is expected to hold at 8.2 percent in July.
Job gains are of great importance, because they lead to income growth, and that supports consumer spending, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
Stock futures rose. The S&P 500 futures gained 0.4 percent, to 1,375.90, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures added 51 percent, to 12,989.
To contact the editor, e-mail: